I was ironing clothes one evening, early in our life with Barça. I stopped to watch in wonderment as Barça bounced from our couch to the ground to the top of the coffee table and back to the ground before circling at full speed around the living room and dashing down the hall, into our bedroom, and jumping onto our bed…then repeating the same exact motions several more times. She suddenly stopped a few feet in front of me, panting with her tongue out, tail furiously wagging. She was so little, so happy, and so lively.
“Don’t ever grow up,” I silently willed the universe to keep her forever small, energetic, and enthusiastic for life, knowing our time with her would go by too fast and that one day, she might be too tired or weak to enjoy all the things she loved to do now. I could not know just how fast it would go.
A little over a year later and shortly after receiving her cancer diagnosis, I remember laying on the floor beside Barça in our hall, softly stroking her side and pleading aloud through my tears, “Please, please grow up.” In case you don’t know how our story goes, she sadly did not.
Carlos and I planned a life with Barça, around her, and for her that would never have the chance to come to fruition. There were places we didn’t get to see together, trips we didn’t get to take together, and most importantly, memories that we didn’t get to make together, at least not in her lifetime. There are, however, several ways in which we’ve continued to make her a part of our daily lives – continued our life with her, even in her absence. In honor of World Pet Memorial Day, we've put together a list of some of the things we’ve done to memorialize our beloved Barça that we hope might inspire you to honor your own pup in a meaningful and personalized way:
Among the most common and traditional memorials are those that mark the whereabouts of or contain pets’ remains (in our case an urn). How you treat your dog following their death is an incredibly difficult and personal decision, and while it is too hard for some paw-rents to keep their dog’s remains in any form, others like Carlos and I felt that it would be harder not to have them (and whatever you choose to do is okay). Carlos and I knew that we wanted her always with us and since we knew we’d eventually move, cremation seemed the best option for our family. It was important to us that Barça's urn would be suited to her (it is, after all, her final resting place), and while the crematory had beautiful options, none were really Barça. A search of Etsy revealed a gorgeous urn in the same color blue as the collar that Barça “chose” on the day we adopted her and that she wore for the majority of her life, which made it an obvious pick. We personalized it further by affixing her name tag to the front, so in a way, it’s like she’s still wearing it. Now, no matter where we go, Barça will be there too, exactly as we intended for her in life.
Photos are obviously a great way to remember pretty much anything and if you’re anything like me, you have a gazillion of your pup… but how many do you have of you and your pup together? Either Carlos or I (but mostly Carlos) were behind the lens when the other was in front, so complete family photos were almost nonexistent for us. We knew that we wanted at least a couple really great photographs of us all together and realized that the only way we would get ones that both of us would love is if we hired a professional photographer to take them – I am SO glad we did! Not only do we have several pawesome family portraits and beautiful images of Barça, but we also have the wonderful memory of being able to spend that time together and not behind the camera. The photo above now hangs proudly over Barça's cremains as a reminder that we're still all together.
Many pet photographers offer “life celebration” sessions for terminally ill and/or elderly pets on short notice and sometimes, at a reduced price from their regular sessions. For more information and to find a photographer near you, check out Joy Session.
Memorial jewelry is an increasingly common traditional and there are a variety of options available to satisfy almost any taste. Among my favorite pieces (and favorite things I own in general) is a pendant of Barça’s nose print (with her name engraved on the back) that Carlos gifted me long before we knew our pup was terminally ill. This is a great way to keep a part of your dog with you no matter where either of you are and literally, close to your heart. A piece such as this particular pendant requires foresight, however, there are plenty of other options that can be personalized without needing your dog for an imprint.
Barca loved our bedsheets quite literally to pieces. Rather than dispose of the tattered-but-beloved linens, we patched up the holes she made and on each patch wrote something like "Barça was here". Every night when we go to sleep and each morning when we wake, Barça is still there with us.
Most people want to leave behind some kind of a legacy, and many people want that for their pets, too. What that entails can be a variety of different things, depending upon what you loved most about them, the causes that impacted their lives, etc. Maybe your pet died of a rare and incurable illness of which there is little knowledge and their legacy becomes a foundation in their name that funds research into the disease's causes and possible cures. Or maybe your pup was fostered before you adopted them, so you decide to foster other dogs in their honor. Whatever you choose to do can be big, small, private, or public -- no matter what you do or who is watching, the important thing is that you are somehow keeping their memory alive.
Barcelona & Company is only one of the ways we are continuing to keep Barça's memory alive. Many people asked Carlos and I if there was something that they could do and my response was, "please donate to canine cancer research." To my great surprise, several people and organizations did so in Barça's memory. It is incredibly touching to know that people were so moved by her life and her cause that they donated in her honor, and it is Carlos and I's plan to continue donations in Barça's memory to ensure that one day, other pets and paw-rents don't suffer the loss that we did.
Is there something else that you've done to memorialize your pet? We'd love to hear!